Our country recently observed National Nurses Week, honoring the dedicated men and women who work around the clock to heal our loved ones. The annual tribute was even more powerful in the midst of the global coronavirus crisis. Health care heroes in Kentucky and across the country are rushing toward danger — often at personal risk — to care for the sick and to beat this virus.
I introduced the CARES Act, which became the largest economic rescue package in history, to send emergency funds to these front-line workers. Kentucky medical professionals have so far received more than $900 million to support their inspirational efforts.
The coronavirus threatens more than just our health, however. The resulting economic shutdown has left Kentuckians facing layoffs, mounting debts and an uncertain future.
As a former Jefferson County judge-executive, I understand the discipline it takes to balance a local budget. I’ve remained in close touch with city and county officials across Kentucky about challenges facing their communities. As Senate majority leader, I’m delivering substantial resources to help.
The CARES Act set aside $150 billion for states and local governments’ response to the coronavirus. Kentucky was sent more than $1.7 billion for this purpose alone. Because of the city’s population, Louisville Metro Government has received more than $133 million directly from this fund to cover a broad list of expenses.
After hearing from state and local leaders, I’m glad U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently provided even more flexibility for using these dollars. The Trump administration is giving local leaders every ability to get assistance into the hands of Kentucky families.
Now, Louisville Metro Government can spend its $133 million to pay the salaries of first responders, health care professionals and others fighting this pandemic. It can cover the costs of testing and contact tracing, which are key to slowing the spread and re-opening our economy.
Some of the funding could be sent to Louisville families to cover the costs of rent, utilities and health insurance. And these federal resources could support small businesses or cover hazard pay.
I hope the Metro Government uses this flexibility to help keep families healthy and support Kentucky jobs.
Other local governments are also eligible to access a portion of Kentucky’s remaining $1.6 billion to cover the same wide range of expenses. In recent calls with city and county leaders, I encouraged them to work with Gov. Andy Beshear as they protect local health and critical public services.
Across Kentucky, the CARES Act is already adding up to an $11 billion impact. In addition to the vital funding for our health care providers and the state and local governments, my bill has invested billions of dollars into our families, workers, small businesses and infrastructure.
Students at the University of Louisville and other local universities were sent urgent relief while their studies are interrupted. Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport received more than $20 million to continue its operations. The city was also given more than $12 million in housing assistance for vulnerable communities. And the CARES Act directed millions to a local substance abuse treatment provider for its comprehensive care.
The CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program is helping save jobs and small businesses. More than 44,000 Kentucky job creators have been approved for $5 billion in federally guaranteed loans. From preserving 171 jobs at the iconic Louisville Slugger to a local homebuilder who kept eight workers on payroll, the PPP is helping Kentuckians get paychecks instead of pink slips. If the recipients use the money to pay workers, rent or other certain expenses, the loans can be forgiven. Billions more have been sent directly to Kentucky families to help them make ends meet.
Federal assistance is clearly on the way to Kentucky. As Senate majority leader, I’m proud our families are receiving support to overcome these unprecedented challenges.
If Congress considers further legislation in response to the coronavirus, I’ll continue working with city and county officials to keep Kentucky’s priorities at the center of the discussion. For example, I’m glad we share a common interest in a narrowly crafted liability protection for hospitals, small businesses and universities. These commonsense safeguards will keep overzealous trial lawyers from profiting off our recovery.
Kentuckians of all backgrounds have stepped up to meet this pandemic. I’m inspired by those who are finding creative ways to help their neighbors and communities. These champions will continue to lead us through this crisis and back to normal. It’s my privilege to join them in protecting Kentucky families.
Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is the Senate majority leader.